Deer Lodge, MT Part II: Museums
In addition to being the location of the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch, Deer Lodge is also the home of several museums including the Old Prison Museum. Deer Lodge used to be the location of the Montana Prison, and the old prison is now a museum. After we visited the ranch, we drove into town to see the prison. The old prison takes up an entire city block and looks like a fortress.
As we said, there are several museums in Deer Lodge, and they are part of the non-profit Powell County Museum and Arts Foundation. There is a combination ticket for $9 (with $1 senior, Good Sam, AAA, or military discount) that covers the prison and three other museums.
In the mid 1800s, Montana was rather wild because the gold rush had attracted not only prospectors, but also outlaws, thieves, swindlers, and gamblers. In the 1860s, vigilantes took it upon themselves to try to bring law and order to the territory. During the 1866-67 session, the territorial legislature requested federal funds for a prison. The Montana Territorial Prison was completed in Deer Lodge in 1870 using convict labor, and the prison received its first inmate in 1871.
The Old Prison Museum has a self-guided tour that winds around the grounds and into several of the buildings. The next photo shows the 1912 cell house. The corner of the white building to the right is the administration building, which was built on the site of the original cell house when it was torn down. The white building to the left in the distance is the shop where license plates were made.
Inside the cell house, the cells were as bleak as they were in Alcatraz, which we visited earlier in the year. However, the cells in the Montana Prison held two inmates instead of just one...
...and in Montana, the cells are stacked four high instead of just three.
There was another large, brick cell house built in 1896 that was damaged by an earthquake in 1959 and that was torn down in 1960. The loss of the 1896 cell house added to the over-crowding. The prison was eventually closed in 1979, and the prisoners were moved to a new facility five miles west of Deer Lodge.
After we toured the prison, we used our combo ticket to visit the Montana Auto Museum, which is located right next to the prison. The Montana Auto Museum has 150 cars on display from a replica of the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine (an 1896 Benz) to pony cars and muscle cars of the 1960s. Unfortunately, the museum seems to be running out of space because most of the cars were displayed so close together you really couldn't see them well at all.
There were a lot of cars from the 1910s and 1920s. The photo below shows Margery with some cars from that era.
Also displayed among the cars was this 1933 Cozy pop-up trailer.
The next photo shows a 1946 Chevrolet pickup. During WWII, there weren't many vehicles being manufactured because materials were scarce and most production had been switched over to help the war effort. This 1946 model had a list price of $757.
The next photo shows (left to right) 1955, 1956, and 1957 Chevrolets. When Paul was a kid, his family had a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Aire very similar to the one in the center of the photo.
In the photo below, Margery is standing in front of a 1972 Opel GT similar to one we had when we were first married and which she raced in autocrosses.
By the time we visited the ranch earlier in the day, the Old Prison Museum, and the Montana Auto Museum, it was getting late. However, we did decide to take a quick look at a couple of the other museums that were on our combo ticket before we headed back to the motor home.
The Frontier Museum was right across the street from the Old Montana Prison. They have collections of handguns, rifles, spurs, chaps, plains Indian clothing and beadwork, and cowboy memorabilia.
The next photo shows some of the spurs they had on display.
Yesterday's Playthings doll and toy museum was also across the street from the prison and was right next to the Frontier Museum. Paul was hoping to see some of the toys he remembered from his childhood, so we stopped in. Unfortunately for Paul, they were a little heavy on the dolls. They did have a few metal toy trucks, but there wasn't anything there like what he had. Theirs were probably a little newer.
By the time we finished the toy museum, our dogs were barking. We headed back to the motor home for dinner.
From our stop in Fairmont, we continued heading eastward. Our next post will have more details.